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‘Look At Me: XXXTentacion’ Takes Considered Look At Life, Legacy Of Late Hip Hop Star — SXSW

Recording star XXXTentacion

Jahseh Onfroy, the gifted recording artist and performer known as XXXTentacion, was only 20 years old when he was killed in a hail of gunfire in Deerfield Beach, Fla. in 2018. His talent and turbulent life are explored in the documentary Look at Me: XXXTentacion, which premiered at SXSW in the festival’s 24 Beats Per Second section.

Director-producer Sabaah Folayan (Whose Streets?) collaborated on the film with Onfroy’s mother, Cleopatra Bernard, who serves as an executive producer on Look at Me.

“Cleo and I talked about the idea of ancestors and what is an ancestor, and in a lot of Black and African traditions, we consider an ancestor to be someone whose life offers us lessons that we can learn and be better from,” Folayan explained as she stopped by Deadline’s SXSW Studio. “We felt like having lost Jahseh so soon, the best thing that we can do was find a way to pull out the lessons of his life and to try to continue his mission.”

In his music, XXXTentacion addressed mental health problems he experienced from a young age. He was barely into his teens when he was diagnosed as bipolar.

“Even though he struggled with mental health, he was also a champion for people to be open and find support for their mental health issues,” Folayan noted. “He was very introspective and very public with his introspection. And I think even though you sort of never know what’s inside a person’s head, there was an authenticity to him that you could really feel and see in that introspection.”

XXXTentacion was known for occasional violent outbursts, and some of the fisticuffs he got into were filmed and spread across social media. Those viral videos increased his fame.

“A lot of young rappers are finding themselves in a situation where they’re being simultaneously rewarded and condemned for the very same actions, and it puts these young people in an impossible position,” Folayan said. “The other thing that I would say is, as colonized people, as the descendants of people who were enslaved, we were brought here through violence. Violence was inflicted on us in order to shape our being into people who could be laborers, and that violence gets passed down generationally. It doesn’t disappear without some type of real intervention and healing. And so I think it’s a privilege to be scandalized by violence. And I think that, collectively, we can be more honest with ourselves about the fact that violence and disturbing things pop up in our everyday lives. They pop up in different corners of our families and our social circles, and a lot of times we ignore it. And then when we see a public presentation of it, it becomes illegible to us. But it was important for me to present this and to say that while it may be unforgivable, it is not illegible. It’s not impossible to understand. It is not impossible to see where it comes from.”

Look at Me: XXXTentacion premieres on Hulu on June 10.Watch more of Deadline’s conversation with Folayan in the video above.

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